San Josemaría and Theological Thought
Rome, November 14-16, 2013
Twenty years ago, the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger addressed a message to participants at a theological conference on the teaching of St. Josemaría Escrivá (1902-1975), the day following the saint’s beatification.
The following paragraphs, pronounced at the conference organized by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, are taken from this noteworthy text:
“Theology, which is born from faith, is subordinate to the knowledge that God has of himself and which the blessed now enjoy in an immediate and definitive manner (…). But the consideration of theology as a science subordinate to the knowledge of God and the saints does not simply imply a tension towards eschatology (…). It also implies, in virtue of that same concept, a reference to that vital union with God already possible on earth for those who, opening themselves in faith to the divine word, seize upon it not only with their intelligence but with the totality of their hearts (…). The work of theologians is always in this sense “secondary”, relative to the real experience of the saints (…).
It is opportune, or better yet, necessary, that in as much as we are theologians, we listen to the teaching of the saints in order to understand their message, a message expressed in manifold ways, since the saints are various and each has received a specific charism, and a message that is simultaneously one, since all of the saints refer to the one Christ, to whom they unite us and whose wealth they aid us in expounding.
In this manifold message which is yet one, in which, as Möhler would have said, consists the Christian tradition, what emphasis does the Blessed Josemaría Escrivá bring? What stimulus does theology receive from his light?”
J. RATZINGER, Inaugural message to the Theological Conference of Study on the Teachings of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá. Rome, 12-X-1993, on: AA.VV., Holiness and the World, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Rome 1994, pp. 20-21.
The question of Cardinal Ratzinger began to find response in the studies published during the years following the beatification, especially in those years surrounding 2002, the centenary of the birth of St. Josemaría and the year of his canonization, an occasion for various theological congresses and conferences.
Nevertheless, the scope and the originality of St. Josemaría’s teaching – recognized by many as a precursor to the Second Vatican Council, in regard to the universal call to sanctity and to sanctification by means of the temporal, secular, and civil activities of Christians – deserve the attention of scholars, in particular those aware of the possibility of enriching theological research by listening to the teaching of the saints.
This theological conference will be an excellent occasion for reflecting upon such an argument, by beginning from a concrete corpus of spiritual doctrine that seems particularly adapt to this end. In the words of Blessed John Paul II,
“Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, like other great figures of the contemporary history of the Church, can also be a font of inspiration for theological thought. In fact, theological research, whose role of mediation between the faith and culture is essential, develops and is enriched by drawing upon the source that is the Gospel. Such development is performed under the inspiration of the experience of the great witnesses of Christianity. And Blessed Josemaría undoubtedly is to be enumerated among these”.
BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, Discourse to participants at the Theological Conference of Study on the Teachings of Blessed Josemaría Escrivá. Rome, 14-X-1993, on: AA.VV., Holiness and the World, cit., pp. 10-11.